Worker Freedom Bills Clear House Committee

Member Group : Center Square

(The Center Square) – Republicans in the Pennsylvania House Labor and Industry Committee approved a slate of bills Tuesday that targets aspects of public employee unions and collective bargaining, despite objections from the committee’s Democrats.

The committee approved House Bills 844, 845, 1104, 1790, 2042 and 2048 on 14-10 party-line votes as Democrats argued against the changes.

House Bill 2042, sponsored by Rep. Kate Klunk, R-York, would repeal Pennsylvania law regarding fair share fees public sector unions charge nonmembers, essentially codifying the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME. The bill also would require annual notification of public employees who are not union members that they are not required to pay any money to the union unless they agree to do so, as well as their right to decide for themselves whether to join the union.

“We don’t want to clog up our courts anymore,” she said, citing polling that shows 85% support requiring public notice of employee rights.

“I do believe it’s a very, very common sense bill,” she said.

Democrats questioned why the bill is needed if the Supreme Court supersedes state law. Republicans countered that unions are still including the fair share provisions in contracts and using state law to push unknowing employees into union membership.

“These bills would reduce the commonwealth’s ability to have and retain a capable workforce,” said Rep. Nick Pisciottano, D-Pittsburgh.

House Bill 844, sponsored by Rep. David Rowe, R-Snyder, would prohibit the Social Security numbers and home addresses of public employees from being subject to collective bargaining, a move designed to prevent unwanted solicitations or identity theft.

Minority Chair Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Luzerne, said the bill was designed to make it harder for unions to connect with members.

“Essentially what you’re doing is hindering a union body from adequately and professionally representing their members,” he said. “We think that’s unfair.”

House Bill 845, also sponsored by Lowe, would require public notice before public employee collective bargaining agreements are signed. The measure would require agreements to be posted online within 48 hours and to remain up for 14 days before and 30 days after the signing of the agreement.

Mullery questioned whether the process provided an opportunity for public comment or require public hearings, which it does not.

“As is typical here, we think we know better than anyone else,” he said. “To me, we’re … dipping our foot where we don’t belong.”

“All we’re trying to do is make things more transparent for the taxpayers and the workers themselves,” Lowe said.

House Bill 2048, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, R-Lehigh, would prohibit the use of the government payroll system to collect political contributions for public sector unions, though members still could donate on their own.

Two other bills approved by the committee Tuesday deal with construction permits and inspections.

House Bill 1104, sponsored by Rep. Eric Davanzo, R-Westmoreland, would require construction permits to be available on the worksite and include a disclosure of contractors and subcontractors, a measure to help identify contractors who hire illegal immigrant workers.

House Bill 1790, sponsored by Rep. Jason Silvis, R-Westmoreland, would require code inspectors to cite specific subsections of code violated in issuing citations.

All six bills now move to the full House for consideration.